Suncoast Credit Union Arena To Offer A Cultural Hub
Writer / Melissa Bill
Suncoast Credit Union Arena not only marks a new start for the athletic department of Florida Southwestern State College, but also opens the door to create a thriving entertainment hub here in Fort Myers.
The name of the arena is the result of Suncoast Credit Union’s $5 million dollar gift to Florida Southwestern State College back on Jan. 20, 2015. The joint venture was in part a way to reenergize the academic community of the college, a goal which is already coming to fruition.
The 75,000-square-foot facility is still under construction with a target date to complete in late Fall 2016. It’s situated at the corner of Summerlin Road and Cypress Lake Drive, just west of the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall.
The renaming of Edison State College to Florida Southwestern State College came after an infringement trademark dispute with another college in 2012. The school officially became FSW on July 1, 2014, after a bill was approved and signed by Governor Rick Scott. According to Teresa A. Morgenstern, Director of Communications at FSW, “It was the perfect time to rebrand the school and find a name that would resonate with all five counties.”
In 2012, FSW brought on board President Dr. Jeff Allbritten to head up the reform of the college. Within a year, Allbritten, along with the countless committed faculty members, turned around the failing Edison State College. The school was on probation and seeing a significant drop in enrollment. Allbritten had a vision for not only improving the academic status of the school, but also creating a new athletic department.
In February 2014, Carl McAloose was hired to rebuild the athletics department and introduce a campus-wide strategic plan. McAloose is no stranger to starting a program from scratch. As the former Athletic Director at Florida Gulf Coast University, he was responsible for building the program from the ground up. Under his direction, the school won seven conference championships and numerous other awards.
“I came to FSW to start something fresh,” McAloose said. “It’s a blank canvas that can be developed from scratch with the right vision.”
One of the key components to McAloose’s plan to restructure the Athletic Department was to hand-pick the top coaches for the basketball and volleyball teams. After a thorough search, the Buccaneers’ men’s and women’s basketball teams will be led by Marty Richter and Kristie Ward. Both coaches bring a record for recruiting and developing the right talent.
“We have recruited some great young ladies both athletically and academically,” Ward said. “A lot of one-on-one time with each of them, because this is a new program.”
According to both coaches, the excitement is noticeable in the new recruits. “It’s amazing to see an 18-year old see the arena prior to completion. They will be the first ones to play on the court, make a basket and possibly win a championship,” said Ward. As a way to commemorate the occasion, the recruits signed their names and jersey numbers on the arena beams.
“I’m looking to sign players that are competitive on the court and want to give back to the community,” said Richter. The men’s basketball team recently signed two new recruits. Many of these athletes are coming from the east coast of Florida.
“The Suncoast Credit Union Arena means more to the community than housing the athletic department and teams. It’s also creating a cultural hub and place for the students to enjoy and utilize year-round,” said Teresa A. Morgenstern.
The arena is approximately 75,000 square feet and the home of the FSW Buccaneers’ basketball and volleyball teams. It seats 3,300 fans and includes a competition court that converts into three recreational courts, six sky boxes, second floor hospitality event center, athletic office space and student and faculty wellness centers. The arena will also host local, regional and national events and concerts.
This year, the arena is excited to announce it will host the Culligan City Classic – the premiere high school boy’s basketball tournament featuring the top teams and players from around the country. The event is covered and broadcasted on ESPN.
The men and women’s basketball season kicks off on November 29 with a double-header game. More than 300 tickets have been sold so far, which start at $75 each.